Planning cabinet member defends decision on Horsham FC ground

JPCT 050614 S14240223x HDC planning framework. Swan walk exhibition.  Claire Vickers -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140506-143502001

JPCT 050614 S14240223x HDC planning framework. Swan walk exhibition. Claire Vickers -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140506-143502001

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The cabinet member responsible for planning has defended the council’s decision to refuse permission for a new ground for Horsham Football Club saying a site north of Horsham has not been ruled out.

Last week the Horsham District Council development control committee rejected an officer’s recommendation to approve the plans for two pitches, stands and a clubhouse at Hop Oast.

Horsham Football Club's 2014 proposal for a new clubhouse and ground at Hop Oast - artists's impression of the view from the balcony - picture submitted by Horsham Football Club SUS-150121-131807001

Horsham Football Club's 2014 proposal for a new clubhouse and ground at Hop Oast - artists's impression of the view from the balcony - picture submitted by Horsham Football Club SUS-150121-131807001

This week cabinet member for living and working communities Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) explained the options open to both parties now.

In a Q&A with the County Times, she has said Hop Oast now must be discounted from the list of suitable sites, but did not rule out other options in the north of the district.

The club meanwhile has indicated it would be appealing the decision.

1. What could be done to improve this application or is this site completely out of the question?

Mrs Vickers said: “The council debated the principle of the use of this site as well as different elements of the design and came to the conclusion that the site was an inappropriate location within the strategic gap. The size of the club house was raised as an issue as the council were of the view that it was far too large and introduced a business use within the countryside. There were other concerns about safety for pedestrians and cyclists, the potential for increased traffic if the club had to provide the FA capacity of 1950, impacts on quiet recreation such as horse riding and the presence of paddocks close to the ground.

“The proposal was rejected on principle as being contrary to planning policies aimed at protecting the countryside from unsuitable development.”

2. What scope is there to get it into the Local Plan in these six months the inspector is giving HDC?

“The Inspector who is examining the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) is clear what amendments he requires and these relate to increasing the housing numbers in the plan. These changes are called “main modifications” and will be subject to public consultation this spring. The Inspector will only receive comments on the suggested changes to the plan – not on the whole document, which he has already examined in detail.

“There is no scope at this very late stage in the preparation of the HDPF to include an allocation that is not required by the Inspector and has not been subject to the rigorous and extensive involvement of the public, statutory consultees and other interested parties at each stage of the plan preparation.”

3. Why wasn’t it included in the Local Plan given that Horsham FC needing a home has been a long term issue?

“The policies of the HDPF do allow for the development of recreational uses, including a new football ground without being prescriptive to its location. This gives greater flexibility in achieving a site that is suitable for Horsham Football Club. The report that was considered by the planning committee referred to the fact that “it is difficult to envisage a perfect site for such a facility” but the policies of the plan allow for such use particularly if there are significant community benefits and the impact of such development is kept to a minimum.”

4. Does the council have any other sites in mind for a football ground suitable for Horsham FC? Has North of Horsham been considered?

“The council has examined and consulted on other sites for Horsham Football Club in the past including within the land West of Horsham allocation and land adjacent to Hillier’s Garden Centre, neither of which were considered suitable. The council is actively talking to the developers promoting the land North of Horsham development and the council’s new Director of Planning, Economic Development and Property, Chris Lyons has personally offered to work with the football club to find a suitable site.”

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